Thank you. One thing we know from our experience here is that when we all work together to promote financial literacy, we have real opportunities to improve the financial well-being of consumers across the country. Today, I look forward to discussing some of the partnerships the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has forged across the country to deliver important financial resources and information to some of our nation’s most vulnerable consumers. I also look forward to learning more from Secretary Perez, and other panelists, about the Department of Labor’s work to ensure that millions of consumers who rely on professional advice to grow their retirement savings get advice that is in their best interest.
Over the past five years, the Bureau has focused on helping to create a financial marketplace that works for consumers, not against them. We try to do this by both protecting and supporting consumers. Our work to protect consumers involves making the rules governing the marketplace more effective, consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and engaging in evenhanded oversight of financial institutions. Our work to support consumers includes creating resources and information directly for the public to use and engaging in foundational research to spread effective approaches to financial education.
As is true of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission itself, we recognize that promoting financial education depends on creating and fostering a diverse array of partnerships and collaborations. Currently, we are engaged around the country with libraries, social service providers, community groups, state and local policymakers, and various other partners.
All of these groups share our interest in helping the people we serve better achieve their financial goals and attain greater financial stability in their lives. In particular, we have come to value our partnerships with legal aid groups. They have helped us reach out to low-income consumers and those who are economically vulnerable. They play crucial front-line roles to ensure access to justice and promote financial security for consumers who may be unbanked, under-banked, or credit invisible.
The Bureau has engaged legal aid groups by providing resources and technical assistance to help them better identify and address the financial challenges of their clients. Empowering consumers to successfully navigate their financial challenges may help them avoid future legal problems or the need for legal assistance.
With our Your Money, Your Goals initiative, which began nearly two years ago, we partnered with social service providers and trained them to provide financial education and tools to their clients. We then expanded on this work to offer the same resources to legal aid groups. The toolkit we have developed as part of the Your Money, Your Goals initiative addresses topics such as emergency savings; building credit history; managing debt; cash flow budgeting; and identifying financial products that consumers can use to pursue various financial and life goals.
The toolkit also includes templates for organizations that are interested in developing a resource and referral network so their clients know how to access help from specialized providers in their local communities. Since we launched the initiative, we have reached more than 450 legal aid staff and volunteer lawyers with in-person and webinar trainings.
Another resource that legal aid organizations may find useful is our Managing Someone Else’s Money guides. The guides are aimed at lay fiduciaries who have been named to manage money or property for a relative or friend who is unable to pay bills or make financial decisions. These financial caregivers include agents under a power of attorney, court-appointed guardians and conservators, trustees, and government benefit fiduciaries.
The guides are written in plain language to explain the duties and responsibilities of people who are acting in each of these fiduciary roles. They also describe how to watch out for scams and what to do if a family member or friend is a victim of financial exploitation. The guides can be distributed to low-income populations by legal services programs; they also can be distributed to adults aged 60 and older by legal services programs funded under the Older Americans Act. They can be shared with older adults who are deciding whom to name as their fiduciaries as well as with individuals who will themselves act as fiduciaries. Since the program launched nearly two years ago, we have distributed over 600,000 printed copies of the guides nationwide.
Through these initiatives, we have come to appreciate the tremendous value that legal aid groups provide to people in our communities. And we hope that other federal agencies will join us in finding new ways to partner with these deserving groups and provide them with useful resources.
In addition, the Bureau regularly engages with national law organizations and law school clinics that provide services to low-income and elderly clients. From our participation in the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, along with many of our fellow FLEC agencies, we have learned about other valuable avenues to better inform our work on financial education.
The key message we take away from these efforts, again, is that working together we are simply better and more effective than we can ever be working on our own. I am glad that you will be hearing more from my colleagues on the next panel about our joint work with the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable. Thank you.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.